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Events 01|2006

ZKM Symposia

The Role of Pictures in Society.
New Ways of Using Images

An interdisciplinary symposium

01/20/-01/22/2006
ZKM|Media Theater

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[=> Speakers: Abstracts | Biographies]
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Abstracts ::::

Hubertus von Amelunxen | Volker Böhnigk | Cornelius Borck | Horst Bredekamp | Peter Chelkowski | Michael Diers | Thomas Dworzak | Tom Fürstner | Jim Gehrz | Philip Jones Griffiths | Boris Groys | Wilhelm Krull | Armin Linke | Scott Mc Kiernan | Klaus Neumann-Braun | Susanne Regener | Hans-Jörg Rheinberger | Birgit Richard | Florian Rötzer | Rolf Sachsse | Peter Weibel

Susanne Regener :: »Government image migration. The use of political image strategies to criminalise people«

-> Biography
-> Abstract auf Deutsch

In the summer of 2005, the Danish media interpreted scenes from a hip hop video as providing circumstantial evidence of plans by immigrants to launch terrorist attacks. The same year a Danish newspaper published a CCTV picture of a female manager on a ‘wanted’ circular – but in reconstructing the bank robbery the police got the time wrong. These are two instances of pictures of innocent people being used for the purposes of discrimination and criminalisation. The images involved have this effect because their appearance evokes associations and contexts that are founded on the (subconscious) general knowledge generated by the visual technologies employed by the government. Whereas the hip hoppers deliberately play with the gangster cliché and a xenophobic society falls into the trap of unrecognised self-stylisation because it knows nothing of the origins of the story behind the pictures, the blurred image of a private surveillance camera provides the police with evidence of a deed the person depicted on the ‘wanted’ circular did not commit. Both these examples are instances of image migration that I examine in an image discourse analysis. In present-day governance the disciplinary powers not only appropriate images in the traditional manner; they have long since become subjects themselves, producing images on a large scale, of which they then make affirmative use in exercising control over society. It may sound trivial, but images have a political dimension as inter-media objects. Hence they can no longer be adequately interpreted without extensive knowledge of historical and socio-political contexts. Two questions, in particular, need to be discussed with regard to so-called technical images. Who controls the images? And what are the political and technical conditions which make that possible?

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Hans-Jörg Rheinberger :: »The Evidence of the Preparation«

-> Biography
-> Abstract auf Deutsch

In my presentation I take a closer look at a category of science objects which, over the course of time, has appeared in very different guises in the empirical sciences and especially in the biological sciences. I refer to preparations. Preparations are a certain category of objects in which the epistemological process unfolds. The specific feature of preparations is that they participate in the materiality of what is to be explored. They figure this materiality in a way that makes it visible and clear. The preparation does not represent; it exposes. The paradox of the scientific preparation resides in the fact that the work of preparation that goes into its representation can be considered successful if the impression gained is that the effort involved in the preparation evaporates within the object. Ideally, it will represent 'nothing but itself'. A preparation counts if it can be regarded as authentic in this sense. The question that needs to be addressed is how the epistemological and the aesthetic are connected and allied in the figure of the preparation.

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Birgit Richard :: »Image Battle und Happy Slapping. Strategies to resolve the enemy object in images«

-> Biography
-> Abstract auf Deutsch

In recent decades, the virtual history of media images has been determined by visual caesuras in the universe of images that have been engineered by advances in technology. Image strategies, such as embedded journalism, indicate a change in the way society handles pictures. The recent photos of torture in Abu Ghraib prison and the video showing the decapitation of the American hostage Nick Berg (2004) have lent a new dimension to what the press calls the war of images. Here, two kinds of image – the photos taken by the US soldiers and the videos shot by the captors – compete with each other in a direct 'battle'. Terrorist and individual violence serves but one purpose: the generation of images. Other phenomena in the media, such as the long death of Pope John Paul II and acts of juvenile violence performed in front of running cameras, reveal a shift in the relationship between the image and the perpetrator/victim and between the view and the object/medium. The connection between the technical image and material reality appears to have been rent asunder, while the indexical has disappeared.

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Florian Rötzer :: »The beauty of the burning car. Images as weapons«

-> Biography
-> Abstract auf Deutsch

A regular feature of all the major events of the recent past has been the rapid availability of pictures taken by so-called amateurs and distributed via television and, above all, on the Internet. Ever since the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the war in Iraq it has been clear that pictures of drones, satellites, rockets, cameras and other sensors, along with simulations, have not only become indispensable for direct combat but that they also function as weapons in their own right which can help to win or lose battles.
In recent years, two interconnected technical trends have opened up a new area for images. Digital cameras have become cheaper and better and have gained wide acceptance in the form of camera mobiles. Digital photos can be taken and transmitted in an instant; they cost little to store and can be deleted immediately. This increases people’s willingness to take more pictures on the spur of the moment and in a haphazard manner – just for fun, as it were. An occasion is no longer necessary and a meaning no longer important because either the picture itself provides a meaning or it is dispatched without further ado to the realms of digital nirvana. Thanks to the permanent attention paid by the takers of pictures we are getting gradually closer to an approach whereby we aestheticise the world around us, see it through a lens and thus select pictorial excerpts or create random impressions. The flood of images with which we duplicate the world, getting both closer up to it and standing further back from it, has increased exponentially with the use of digital cameras and camera mobiles.
What is also new is the ability to immediately transmit pictures from a mobile phone or to post them on the Internet, irrespective of whether they are on your own website or blog, in some forum or other or on photo-sharing sites, such as flickr.com, where tags enable your own pictures to be networked with pictures taken by other people. Moreover, digital pictures can be easily copied, processed and distributed. This means a permanent expansion and updating of global awareness or global perception. In addition individual images can spread, virus-like, at great speed and infect many people’s perception like a mem, whereas prior to the Internet and the mobile telephone networks they mostly had to pass through the bottleneck of the mass media.
The upshot of these two interconnected and reinforcing techniques and trends is a growing loss of control over the global flow of images in which pictures are being fed into the public virtual image space from ever more sources. This naturally includes the images from cameras that are not operated by human hand as well as from other optical sensors. Part and parcel of this loss of control is that pictures are now being circulated that were either never taken in the past because of a lack of the requisite opportunity or the prevailing morality or were secretly circulated among small groups. As a result we are now getting to see more and more pictures that we would never have seen previously in the media. They include pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib prison, of terrorist attacks and executions, of the bloody consequences of war, of acts of cruelty, of obscene acts, of the beauty of destruction and of everyday banality. We are in the midst of a revolution in the world of images and perception which, needless to say, is also changing us and the real world, too.

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Rolf Sachsse :: »The Masters Vanish. On the disappearance of photography from art and design«

-> Biography
-> Abstract auf Deutsch

Technically, photography is still a proto-medium; initially only the reproduction and distribution techniques associated with it were used in the media. In recent debates this difference, which Walter Benjamin had very much in mind when writing his essay on The Artwork in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility, has only ever been used in opposition to the technical sign character of photographic images with regard to the largely superfluous issue of the artwork among photographic images. Ever since Marcel Duchamp it has been clear that an artwork is self-generating in an autopoetic to autoconstructive manner - irrespective of the medium. And as far as art is concerned, the reproductive properties of photography have been a non-issue ever since the work of Thomas Ruff.
The situation appears more complex in the universe of images which, like Henri Lefaibvre's universe of things, is steadily diminishing. The flood of images on the Internet is nothing other than a tsunami of the repetitions of the ever same motives, the semantic differentiation of which inevitably decreases with increasing syntactisation, thereby generating a semiosphere of scattered particles. The waning credibility of the individual image is halted by an increasing contextualisation in psychological methods of the attention economy, leading to the atomisation of what has been seen. No image is seen in its entirety any more but solely as the vehicle for an important detail that provides no indication of the impact it can and should unfold. This particularisation can be illustrated by means of specific forms of the visual terror of advertising, pornography, political staging and criminal self-representation and presented as a currently significant moment of a 'front of visual communication'.

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